LRSD reading program changes draw scrutiny from parents

LITTLE ROCK (KATV) -- It may be out with the old and in with thenew for a reading program in Little Rock schools.

For about the last two decades the Little RockSchool District has used a first-grade Reading Recovery program to improveliteracy.{} It's a strategy manyresearchers and parents consider successful, so you can imagine there's somepush back as superintendent Dr. Dexter Suggs intends to change it.

In some cases this readingprogram mentors kids throughout all of elementary school, but it may come to asudden end around Little Rock, where parents aren't the least bit happy aboutit.

"I sat in thisbuilding at Central High School last week, and the principal told me she's gotkids in there that are reading on the fourth, fifth and sixth-grade levels.These are seniors, juniors and sophomore," said frustrated parent, Jim Ross.

Ross is not only voicinghis frustrations over Dr. Suggs' plans to change the Reading Recovery program,he's making it known online through a petition. The page has gained more than1,300 signatures since Friday.

At the University of Arkansas-LittleRock, literacy director Dr. Linda Dorn continues to study Reading Recovery,saying it's one of the most successful in the nation across all races ofchildren.

"You know here's thishistory of effectiveness, and this history of support. Now suddenly we'redrastically dropping that. We're starting to invest in something that has noresearch behind it," Dr. Dorn said, speaking about Suggs' new plan.

Dr. Suggs was unavailableto speak on-camera Tuesday, but said the district would not be eliminating thereading program, rather restructuring it so more students at all schools wouldbenefit.

He released this statement to Channel Seven:

"The New Little Rock School District'splan for reading teachers is intended to meet the needs of struggling studentsby providing an extension of the research-based, LRSD Elementary LiteracyIntegrated Core Curriculum. The plan for LRSD reading teachers isn't new; it isan extension of the core curriculum and instructional design for elementaryliteracy. Through extension of the core curriculum, reading teachers will workwith groups of students with similar needs to improve literacy performance andachievement."


That may not be enoughproof to parents, until his concrete plan surfaces.

"If they won't keepthis program in place, we're going to stay on them day and night. If we seethem continuing to slip into 'Let's save money instead of helping kids,' thenwe're going to move as quickly as we can to replace board members, superintendentsand assistant superintendents," Ross added.

Latest numbers from2012-2013 show 175 students at LRSD were taught Reading Recovery by 21teachers. An additional 549 students received help during the second-half ofthe day following Reading Recovery.

Parents plan to voice additionalconcern at Thursday's school board meeting.